Perianth component / SAT 8-29-15 / Microsoft release of 2013 / Big producer of novelty records informally / My Darling Clementine locale / Surveying device with letter-shaped rests / Longtime Washington Post theater critic Richard / Spice mixture in Indian restaurant

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Constructor: Evan Birnholz

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: David CAMERON (40D: Brown's follower) —
David William Donald Cameron (/ˈkæmrən/; born 9 October 1966) is a British politician who has served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2010, as Leader of the Conservative Party since 2005 and as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Witney since 2001. (wikipedia)
• • •

This played hard, then easy, then hard, then easy. So "Medium." Couldn't get started, then couldn't understand how I had failed to get started, as I knocked off well over half the puzzle without much effort. Then got badly stuck in the SE. Then figured out what the hell [Brown's follower] meant and went on to finish the puzzle somewhere in the SW, possibly at the "Y" in YLEVEL (59A: Surveying device with letter-shaped rests). Overall it seems pretty decent. It's not a showy grid—looks oddly like a weekday/themed grid in its segmentation. There are no stacks of longer answers—in fact, it doesn't contain any answer more than 11 letters long. But there's a bunch of good stuff in there: OXFORD COMMA (20A: Much-debated grammar subject) and "LAY IT ON ME" and SCARE QUOTES being my favorites. SEX APPEAL's not bad either. Next to no junk. Nice. I found it a little annoying at first (and this may explain the difficulty / frustration I had getting started) because there seems to be sooooo many &%^$ing "?" clues. When I finished the puzzle, I counted—there are only seven (7) "?" clues total. It's just that five (5) (!) of those originate in the NW quadrant, where my solving experience also originated. Anyway, once I figured out XBOXONE, I took off, and the whole "?" issue ceased to matter.


Not sure how I feel about crossing ICBM and IBAR at the "I." I think I'm against it. Something about having to say the "I" out loud (as a letter) in both seems ... like duplication, even though one "I" is an abbr. and the other is just the letter qua letter, the shape of the letter being the issue. I definitely object to the dupe at XBOX *ONE* and SIDE *ONE*. So, to be clear, the "I" thing would never bother me if those "I" s weren't in the same box. Like, if IBAR were way on the other side of the grid from ICBM, I wouldn't even have notice, let alone cared. But the crossing ... not sure why it bugs me, but it does. I don't consider that a dupe, though. A dupe is a duplicate word in the grid. Here's the thing I realized about dupes—if they are fewer than three letters long, I don't care (again, unless they're intersecting). Like, you could have four "ON"s in the grid, and I'm not sure I'd notice. I certainly wouldn't notice two. But once you get into longer words (3+), then I think you shouldn't dupe them. It's just an elegance issue. No one is harmed by the two ONEs. But ideally, you don't do that.


Bullets:
  • 30D: Color (TINCT) — Had TIN-. Guessed TINCT. Worried it could be TINGE. This doubt caused some of the ensuing problems in the SE.
  • 48A: "La Dolce Vita" setting (ROME) — this caused some more of the problems in the SE. I plunked down ROMA with no hesitation. The title of the movie is in Italian, ROMA is the Italian spelling, parallelism takes over ... ROMA. But no. I also convinced myself that ESTOERA was a word (39D: Things rarely seen), so I didn't get that, or TEXAN (44A: President #36, #41 or #43) for a little while there. That section fell because I finally realized the way "diet" was being used in 41D: Mideast diet (KNESSET)
  • 5D: Unpleasant things to pass around (COLDS) — I had GERMS. So ... I was close. 
  • 23A: Battle of Isengard participant (ENT) — never saw this clue, which is how it should be with short / over-common fill. That stuff should be inconspicuous to the point of invisibility. It should also be scarce, especially in a themeless, which, as I've said, it is today.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Comic strip character surnamed DeGroot / FRI 8-28-31 / Barely communicates on smartphone / Actress Carano of Fast Furious 6 / Maniac Mansion console / 1987 B'way smash / Captain Clutch of baseball /

Friday, August 28, 2015

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Wanda SYKES (39A: Star of the sitcom "Wanda at Large") —
Wanda Sykes (born March 7, 1964) is an American comedian, writer, actress, and voice artist. She earned the 1999 Emmy Award for her writing on The Chris Rock Show. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America.[2] She is well known for her role as Barbara Baran on The New Adventures of Old Christine and for her appearances on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. // In November 2009, The Wanda Sykes Show, her own late-night talkshow, premiered on Fox, airing Saturday nights, until it was cancelled in April 2010.[3][4] Sykes has also had a successful career in film, appearing in Monster-in-Law, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Evan Almighty, and License to Wed, and voiced characters in Over the Hedge, Barnyard, Brother Bear 2, Rio, and Ice Age: Continental Drift. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a nice, solid Friday. I'm in the middle of a constructing binge after a several-year hiatus, so I am on Red Alert for unclean fill, and there's not too much of it here. In a high word-count themeless, there shouldn't be. If this were my puzzle, this is the stuff that would gnaw at my conscience: ANOS (I will never ever ever use this ... and I clue ANO as a partial, so bad is my aversion to the whole tilde issue here), ISAO, VAS, PSS. There's other stuff I don't love, but can tolerate (AGORAE for its crosswordesiness and dumb plural, "LUANN" because I don't even know who reads that ...). But honestly it's hard to find weak spots in this grid, and some of the good stuff is Really good. First and last Acrosses are both killer. Sam is a law professor, so LAWYER UP is a little bit of self-referentiality, but not so that it's irksome. "WAIT, WHAT?" is just perfectly colloquial. I love when constructors snatch common spoken expressions out of the air and put them in the grid. On my printed out grid, I've also got stars next to MASS EXODUS (12D: Lots of outgoing people) and FREAK OUT ON (which also has nice misdirection in the clue—looks like an adjective phrase, acts like a verb phrase: 26D: Subject to a hissy fit).


I gotta get some sleep. Been staring at grids on a screen too long. Not much interesting happened during the actual solve. It's a pretty segmented grid, so I just followed it like a maze from the "start' in the NW, down to the SW, up through the center to the NE, and then down to the "finish" in the SE. Once I got going, there were no real hold-ups. I felt guilty about how much I relied on ENBERG to get started (5D: Sportscaster Dick). And I felt ashamed and slightly dirty that the first answer I threw down there was VITALE (shudder).


OK, I need to sleep. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. this:


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